Day 3 at GenCon 2003

Sorry for the late report on our last day at GenCon (Saturday). This was an abbreviated day - had to make it back to Shelbyville in time for a birthday celebration with the family. It was a blast nonetheless and I have a few more photos to share.

Jacob examines his order cards in Battle Cry.

We started the day by checking out Battle Cry from Game Base 7. This is a game I've been wanting to try for quite a long time, and I was not disappointed. This is a very light, very tactical war game set during the American Civil War. There's a lot to like about this game: the use of command cards to simulate (in my opinion) the complexity and latency of issuing commands on the field; the use of multiple miniatures in a square to represent force strength; the easy to learn and execute combat system. We taught ourselves the game and played the Bull Run scenario in about 45 minutes. I won fairly easily, but I was playing the confederates and for some reason I think the deck is stacked against the union in this scenario. This is definitely a game we'll add to our collection.

Jacob and I enjoy a game of Elfenland.

Our next game was a scheduled event to play Elfenland. I've played King of the Elves many times with my kids, but this was our first chance playing the board game. We both enjoyed the board game more than the card game. Players attempt to visit as many towns as possible in the space of 4 turns. Player interaction comes in a few interesting ways. Players alternate choosing what mode of transportation will be used to travel from town to town. By leveraging routes laid out by other players, a player can likely visit more towns in a turn. But with that approach comes risk, since a player might subsequently choose an unusable mode of transportation to a town you plan to visit. I didn't catch on soon enough, and my initial path sent me too far away from the other players, limiting my travel each turn. I'll still managed to finish in second place with 17 towns visited to the winner's 18.

Jacob and I had a fab time playing some D&D in this RPGA sessions.

The last event of GenCon for Jacob and me was a 4 hour RPGA-sponsored Dungeons and Dragons adventure - part of the Legacy of the Green Regent campaign. We fell in with a great group and had a fun time, even though we did not manage to complete the adventure. Jacob played a shield dwarf fighter and I played a human rouge - the rest of the party were either elves or half-elves. This was the highlight of the convention for Jacob - he loves role playing and looked forward to this event all week.

That's all for GenCon Indy 2003! We plan to make it back each year given the proximity to family in the Indianapolis area.

Day 2 at GenCon 2003

It is getting late but I still want to get my report out. This report will be shorter on words but I'll keep the pictures. Matthew (my 6 soon-to-be-7 year old) joined Jacob and I for the morning. We met my parents at a great deli near downtown called Shapiro's, and they took him back to Shelbyville from there. Jacob, Matthew, and I started our day with a partial learning game of the "A Game of Thrones" collectible card game. I've read the first book of the series on which the game is based (Julie's read the entire series), and it came with a strong recommendation from Steve Ellis at Rainy Day Games. One of his points of praise was that the emphasis is on game-play, not so much deck construction. I'm just not prepared to spend a lot of money buying cards to be competitive or spend a lot of time building decks, so this game is appealing to me. We only played a couple of turns and I like it so far. Too complex for Matthew I think, but Jacob picked up on it quickly.

Jacob and I at the demo for Mystery of the Abbey.

Our first scheduled game was a demo of Mystery of the Abbey by the folks at Days of Wonder (including president Eric Hautemont himself). We had a blast with this one - especially when the event card turned up that forced us to talk in Gregorian chants until the next mass. This is a Clue-like deduction game with much more depth. I'm fairly certain I'll pick this one up tomorrow at the exhibit hall. I managed to win the game with 6 points and a correct accusation of the culprit monk. This was enjoyable for Matthew, though the different dimensions of deduction were a bit challenging (fat/thin, beard/no-beard, etc.).

What would GenCon be without the costumes? Matthew enjoyed his journey around the exhibit hall as much as playing the games. And yes, you do see Matthew sporting a mohawk haircut here. Long story...

After lunch, Jacob and I journeyed back the the folks at GameBase 7 to play Ra, the Knizia classic. I'm obviously a huge Knizia fan, but this game didn't do it for me. I'm beginning to think I don't like games where auctions are the primary mechanic. Jacob and I didn't do too well in this 5-player game - he finished last and I was second to last.

One game I've been wanting to play is Domaine, the new Klaus Teuber game by Mayfair. Perhaps I'll get a shot at it tomorrow, but check out this jumbo board from the Mayfair booth! Those are real miniatures you see there. We also saw some very cool jumbo Settlers arrangements, both at the Mayfair booth and on the game floor.

Speaking of miniatures, Jacob and I took out an hour of our time to try out the free miniature painting booth near the boardgame hall. Very nice folks, very nice deal - we got some great starter tips from a professional. Jacob painted an elvish archer and I did a brawny fighter. My goal was to do better than the last miniature I painted at age 15, and Jacob confirmed that I surpassed that lofty target.

Oh yes, and we made a few purchases today: Bang!, the Settlers of Catan travel edition, some dice and glass bead counters, the Star Wars D20 rules (Jacob, Matthew and I have been playing the old D6 West End Games rules but grew tired of switching back and forth with D20 systems), and a couple of R.A. Salvatore books for the family.

Tomorrow will be a shortened day, but Jacob and I are excited to play in our first RPGA event using the new 3.5 edition D&D rules. We will also play Elfenland in the morning and plan to try Battle Cry on arrival.

Day 1 at GenCon 2003

Jacob and I just wrapped up day 1 of our GenCon adventure in Indianapolis. We arrived downtown (after driving from Shelbyville where my parents live) around 9am and headed to will call to pick up our badges. Man I'm glad we pre- registered - I heard the line for day passes was over 1 hour long, and the line for generic tickets was 1-2 hours long. GenCon uses an interesting model - you can pre-register for specific games (this is really required for some of the more popular events like tournaments and the various RPGA events), and you can also purchase generic tickets for about $1.50 per 2 hour gaming event. Open (free) gaming is pretty scarce - it is pretty much all pay to play. Jacob and I registered for games in about 75% of the timeslots we'll be there, so our gaming day started about 10am this morning. We used the time before our first event to play Senjutsu, the new game from Salvador Games. This is a very unique abstract strategy game with a Samurai theme. Imagine a combination of Chess, Stratego, and Star Wars Epic Duals - there's a degree of hidden deployment (foot soldiers get equipped with 3 items each that can be weapons, armor, ninja, or scroll). The goal is to capture the opponent's scroll or destroy all of the opponent's soldiers. I barely beat Jacob - we were each down to just two soldiers and he ran out of armor on his soldier that was guarding the scroll. We both enjoyed the game and we might just have to pick it up tomorrow.

We were scheduled to play Seafarers of Catan at 10:00, but there was only one other person and we noticed a woman sitting by herself with one of the historical scenarios for Settlers. Since she was the only for her event, we joined forces and decided to play the Trojan War historical scenario. I've played Settlers quite a bit, but never one of the scenarios and we thoroughly enjoyed it. In this scenario, players are secretly vying for the success of either Troy or Mycenae, and they pay tribute by contributing resources secretly to the war effort. Once enough tribute has been paid, a battle happens with the victor determined by the quantity of resource cards played for each. The players on the victor's side get extra victory points for each successful battle. In this game, Jacob opted for a strategy of staying land-locked (so that the sea people could not raid his port) and building cities while actively support the war effort. It worked - he beat the three adults by a wide margin, scoring 14 points and forcing the last battle for Troy to be fought. I finished second with 11 points.

Next Jacob and I joined three other games for a game of Puerto Rico - the first time I've played with 5 people. Jacob has played twice and the others were new, so I spent the first 15 minutes explaining the rules (that's me on the left in the picture). The three newbies caught on quickly and started to pick up on some of the nuances of the game (such as it is best to not be producing what the player on your right produces, and it often makes sense to mimic what the player on your left is producing). I opted for a strategy of building valuable buildings and producing a diversity of goods. I started very slow, but my gold production hockey-sticked (ramped up dramatically) and I was able to build two of the large buildings. I think I finished with about 49 points and won the game with the closest finisher about 10 points behind. My first PR victory, though hardly against a seasoned crowd.

Next it was time for Jacob and I to tour the exhibit hall. I was wearing my Plenary Games t-shirt, and a surprising number of people approached me wondering if I was associated with the company (notably a game distributor and the folks at GameTable Online, who are interested in doing a licensed version of Fresh Fish). I met some interesting folks, including Eric Hautemont of Days of Wonder games, Steve Ellis of Rainy Day Games, my local game store on Portland' west side, and Andrew Looney from Looney Labs. We picked up a couple of new games: the Battlecards expansions for the Pacific Theater and Russion Front, and the Game of Thrones collectable card game. We stopped by the Mayfair booth and got a chance to play in a Bang! demo. We loved this game! Players secretly take on the role of sheriff, deputy, outlaw, or renegade and have different respective victory conditions. I was an outlaw, Jacob the deputy, and I somehow managed to con the sheriff into shooting his deputy! It was a close finish with both the sheriff and the renegade trying to do me in, but I managed to draw a Bang! card at the right time and do in the sheriff. We are definitely going to pick this game up (using our Mayfair demo bucks discount of course!) tomorrow.

Finally, Jacob and I returned to the boardgame hall to play Tigris and Euphrates. Unfortunately nobody else showed up for our game, so we played a two-player game. I avenged my loss in the game where I taught Jacob and had a resounding victory of 24 to 5. Jacob made the mistake of building monuments much too early, allowing me the opportunity to attack and steal his hard work.

One tip for those planning on attending the board gaming sessions at GenCon - don't bother buying tickets for the specific games unless you are playing in a tournament or it is a demo for a new game that might have limited instruction. Stick to generic tickets and use the flexibility to play different games without feeling pressured to play the one you signed up for. Jacob and I were supposed to play Samurai at 7pm, but we decided to head back to Shelbyville to have dinner with my parents and Matthew. The folks at GenCon were nice enough to exchange our Samurai tickets for generic tickets that we'll be able to use tomorrow when I bring Matthew for the morning.

Safe Arrival in Indy

Julie, Jacob, Matthew, and I arrived safely in Indianapolis tonight. We had a great dinner at my sister’s place on the northeast side. Julie stayed there so that she can head up to West Lafayette tomorrow to see her grandmother, and I took the boys down to Shelbyville to stay at my parents’ place. Jacob and I will drive downtown and try to arrive around 8:30 or so to pick up our GenCon registration and get our bearings. Our schedule tomorrow is:

  • 10am – noon – Seafarers of Catan
  • 12:30pm – 2:30pm – Puerto Rico
  • 2:30pm – 5pm – Free time for exhibit hall and dinner
  • 5pm – 7pm – Tigris and Euphrates
  • 7pm – 9pm - Samurai

Not sure if we’ll stay that late – really depends upon how Jacob is doing. Don’t know if there will be connectivity at the show – if there is, expect some mid-day updates. Otherwise I’ll post a report tomorrow evening (my parents have broadband wifi – how cool!).

FreshFish 0.2 Available for Download

I finally have a working standalone version of Fresh Fish available for download. In the download you will find the executable (just run FreshFishGUI.exe out of the /bin directory) and the source code. You will need to have the .NET Framework Version 1.1 Redistributable Package to run this game (sorry non-Windows users...). I'm calling this version 0.2 - it still needs a lot of work, but is playable. I would love to hear your comments, so either post them here or join me at the boardgamecoders Yahoo group and ask questions there.